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Small and Medium Enterprises


Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the engines of growth and innovation in the APEC region. They account for over 97 percent of all businesses and employ over half of the workforce across APEC economies. They contribute significantly to economic growth, with their share of GDP ranging from 40 percent to 60 percent in most economies. However, they only account for 35 percent or less of direct exports.

History and Objective

Within the context of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, SMEs have been recognized as a priority area since the 1993 APEC Leaders’ meeting in Seattle. First established in February 1995 as Ad Hoc Policy Level Group on SMEs, the group was renamed Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) in 2000. The SMEWG primarily works to encourage the development of SMEs and to build their capacity to engage in international trade.

Vision Statement

The SMEWG is the champion within APEC for the inclusive development of sustainable, resilient, and innovative SMEs.

Mission Statement

The SMEWG is the main forum where APEC economies exchange information, views, best practices, and analysis concerning SMEs in the region.

Ministerial and Plenary Meetings

The APEC SME Ministerial Meetings, held annually since 1994, set out the direction for the working group. The SMEWG held two plenary gatherings per year.

SMEWG Strategic Plan

In September 2020, SME ministers endorsed the SMEWG Strategic Plan for 2021–2024, which provided a roadmap to address critical issues pertaining to the growth of SMEs and microenterprises in the APEC region.

These priorities are the following:

  • Entrepreneurship, innovation and start-ups
  • SME access to international markets and global value chains
  • Inclusive capability development towards digitalization
  • Access to finance and alternative financial solutions
  • Government-to-business interaction

In 2022, the strategic plan was updated to integrate the APEC Putrajaya Vision 2040 and the Aotearoa Plan of Action adopted by APEC economic leaders in November 2020 and 2021, respectively, as annexes to the document. In this sense, the SMEWG Strategic Plan contributes with the three APA drivers (Trade and Investment; Innovation and Digitalization; and Strong, Balanced, Secure, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth).

SMEWG Terms of Reference

The SMEWG Terms of Reference for 2021 – 2024 gives the guiding principles on how the Group operates in areas such us Structure, Leadership, Meeting Arrangements, For a Review, Quorum, Sunset Clause; List of Tentative Chair/Vice Chair and Host of SMEWG Meetings till 2040. Access the TOR here.


Last page update: May 2024


Aaron SYDOR (Mr)

Global Affairs Canada
Email: [email protected]

Carlos Obando (Mr)
Program Director
Nicole Ledoux Vargas (Ms)
Program Director

Current Activities

The 29th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting was held in Seattle, Washington in the United States on 21 August 2023. The chair issued a statement stressing the commitment to foster quality growth that brings palpable benefits and greater health and well-being to all, including MSMEs. The chair’s statement emphasizes the importance of creating pathways for growth of MSMEs, including empowering them in regional and global markets through access to global value chains and through digital tools and technologies. This includes expanding opportunities for MSMEs owned or led by individuals with untapped economic potential, such as women, Indigenous Peoples as appropriate, persons with disabilities, and those from remote and rural communities.

During the 57th SMEWG meeting held in Bali, Indonesia on 24 - 25 April 2024, member economies:

- Updated on their respective projects and initiatives, as well as best practices, policy measures and achievements, guided by the five priority areas as outlined in the SME Working Group Strategic Plan 2021-2024. These updates reflected alignment with APEC 2024 priorities, APV and APA, among others.

- Agreed to update the SMEWG Strategic Plan, the SMEWG Terms of Reference, and the SMEWG Specialised Centres for the 2025-2028, and communicating to the SOM Steering Committee on Economic and Technical Cooperation about decisions taken on satellite websites.

- Received presentation by the APEC Policy Support Unit on the implementation process of the study on “Enhancing MSME Data Interoperability in the APEC region.” Since 2023, and during 2024, the SMEWG and PSU are developing this document to identify challenges, find opportunities, and propose recommendations to improve MSME data compatibility and interoperability around the region.

- Were informed by the SMEWG Program Director that during 2023, 16 projects focused on the abovementioned Strategic Plan priorities as follows: namely: Entrepreneurship, innovation, and start-ups (81 percent); SME access to international markets and global value chains (63 percent); Inclusive capability development towards digitalization (38 percent); access to finance and alternative financial solutions (19 percent); and government to business interactions (69 percent).

The 30th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting will take place on 13 September 2024, and the 58th SMEWG meetings will be held on 11-12 September in Pucallpa, Peru.

The list of SMEWG projects, in implementation or completed, APEC funded or self-funded, can be found here.

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